Q: I’m hearing that sugar is bad for me and will cause weight gain and diabetes. Is this true?
– Lana from Rochester

A: How come refined sugar is bad for you? Sugar is not poison. In small doses, it’s not even bad for you. The problem is each of us is averaging 158 pounds of refined sugar a year, more than humans have ever eaten in the entire history of our species. If you include artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, per capita daily consumption tops 50 teaspoons. The biggest culprits are soft drinks and sweets, but sugar also is added to most processed foods, from fruited yogurt to baked beans. Back to your question on whether all that sugar is bad for us. The only proven harm posed by too much sugar is tooth decay. (Dental caries and periodontal disease have skyrocketed since people began bathing their teeth in a constant supply of sugar.) Granted, many researchers suspect a sugar-laden diet is a culprit in the development and progression of heart disease, depression and mood swings, lethargy, hypoglycemia, diabetes, kidney disease, colon cancer, gallstones, obesity, and ulcers. However, without a consistent trend in the research, no verdict has been reached. If not a convicted villain, sugar is an accomplice to many health problems, since it either replaces nutritious foods or adds unwanted calories. Let’s face it. Every time you reach for a sugar-laden processed food, you’re missing the opportunity to reach for a chin-dribbling strawberry, crunchy carrot, bowl of split pea soup, or whole grain cereal, the types of foods in which our diets are sorely lacking. Or, eat well and add all that sugar and now you’ve got a weight problem. The bottom line? Most of us should cut our sugar intake in half. So… o Avoid sticky, sweet foods, such as processed fruit bars, candy, and caramel, since they are the worst offenders of tooth decay. o Limit soft drinks to no more than one serving every other day. o Cut way back on sweets. o Read labels. A food is too sweet if sugar is one of the first three ingredients or if the list includes several sources of sugar. o Use more spices. Cinnamon, vanilla, spearmint and anise provide a sweet taste to foods without adding sugar or calories. -Elizabeth Somer